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Northern Sights: Sami Culture in Arctic Architecture

Northern Sights: Sami Culture in Arctic Architecture
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North of the Arctic Circle, two bold architectural forms take their cue from the culture of the Sami, an Indigenous group who inhabit northern regions spanning Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Though modern in design, the Norwegian Samediggi in Karasjok, Norway and the Sami Cultural Center Sajos in Inari, Finland both draw on elements of traditional Sami culture, such as reindeer herding and duodji handicrafts. At the same time, these landmark buildings reflect the strength of contemporary Sami political engagement and cultural resilience.
Initially opened to the public in 2000, the Norwegian Samediggi, or Sami Parliament, was designed by architects Stein Halvorsen and Christian Sundby for a competition sponsored by the Norwegian Government. Structured as a semi-circle, visitors enter through a terraced library, with warm wood interiors and low-hanging lights suggestive of a starry arctic sky. A corridor of offices marks the transition from public space to the impressive conical-shaped meeting hall of the parliament. Inspired by the shape of the traditional Sami laavu, or tent, the wood paneled room features a wall of windows reaching up toward the apex, showering visitors with an abundance of natural light. While the larch paneling of the structure’s exterior blends with the surrounding pine landscape, the monumental presence of the laavu peak can be seen from any location in town.
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